President dismisses criticism by Flake, Corker

AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning dismissed criticism by Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, saying the real reason they are retiring is because of unfavorable election odds, not dissatisfaction with their party’s standard-bearer.

Flake announcement was made Tuesday in a speech on the Senate floor that bemoaned the “coarsening” tenor of politics in the United States.  Wednesday morning,  Flake went after President Trump again, this time on CBS This Morning.

“The longer we go the more this behavior is normalized and that is a problem. We have a responsibility as elected officials to speak out whether his behavior is beyond the pale, and I think some of what we’ve seen fits in that category.”

Flake denounced the “complicity” of his own party in what he called an “alarming and dangerous state of affairs” under President Trump, blaming the President for setting the tone. In his speech, Flake assailed a “flagrant disregard for truth or decency” and attacked a “regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms.”

“When such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy,” Flake said.

“The reason Flake and Corker dropped out of the Senate race is very simple, they had zero chance of being elected. Now act so hurt & wounded!” President Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

The President, who was on Capitol Hill Tuesday for a lunch with GOP senators about tax reform, then tweeted: “The meeting with Republican Senators yesterday, outside of Flake and Corker, was a love fest with standing ovations and great ideas for USA!” Later, he added: “Jeff Flake, with an 18% approval rating in Arizona, said ‘a lot of my colleagues have spoken out.’ Really, they just gave me a standing O!”

Asked on CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday about the criticism, Flake acknowledged that it’s “very difficult to be re-elected in the Republican Party right now, in Arizona in particular.

“It doesn’t matter the policies that you adopt or your votes — it’s if you’re with the President, and I can’t be with the President at all times,” he said. “I’m sorry, I think when the President is wrong, you have to call him out, and sometimes he’s wrong. And that’s what I tried to point out in the speech yesterday.”

Corker, meanwhile, said he wouldn’t support Mr. Trump for President if given the opportunity again, saying he has “great difficulty with the truth” and that “debasing” the US would be his prime legacy as President.

“I think many of us, me included, have tried to, you know, intervene, and I have had a private dinner and have been with him on multiple occasions to try and create some kind of aspirational approach, if you will, to the way that he conducts himself,” Corker said. “I don’t think that that’s possible. He’s obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president.”

The President’s remarks on the motivations behind Flake and Corker’s decisions echoed speculation made by his own White House Tuesday when asked about the Arizona senator’s comments.

“Based on the lack of support he has from the people of Arizona, it’s probably a good move,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

“I think that they were not likely to be re-elected and I think that shows the support is more behind the President than it is those two individuals.”